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January 24, 2022

Introduction

The E-Rate Central News for the Week is prepared by E-Rate Central. E-Rate Central specializes in providing consulting, compliance, and forms processing services to E-rate applicants. To learn more about our services, please contact us by phone (516-801-7804), fax (516-801-7814), or through our Contact Us web form. Additional E-rate information is located on the E-Rate Central website.

The FY 2022 Form 471 Application Window opened on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, at 12:00 noon EST and will close on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

E-Rate:

Wave 41 for FY 2021 was released on Thursday, January 20th, for a total of $32.7 million.  Cumulative commitments are now $2.57 billion.  Nationwide, USAC has now funded 98% of the FY 2021 applications representing 92% of the requested funding.

ECF:

Wave 7 was released on January 10th for a total of $361 million.  Cumulative ECF commitments are $4.19 billion.  Unlike E-rate, for which funding waves are issued weekly, ECF funding waves are being released roughly once a month.  ECF invoice payments, also issued in waves, appear to be issued more frequently.  Authorized disbursements as of last Friday totaled $253 million.

The FCC’s final Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) (FCC 22-2) for the Affordable Connectivity Program (“ACP”) was released late last Friday following the FCC’s approval of the Order the previous Friday.  The primary difference between the final Order and the draft that had been released earlier in January was the inclusion of a new section in the FNPRM.  This section seeks comment on a pilot program focused on eligible households participating in Federal Public Housing Assistance (“FPHA”) programs (see Paragraphs 281-286).

Most importantly for schools and libraries, the section on bulk purchasing arrangements and multiple dwelling units (“MDUs”), including the eligibility of homeless shelters, remains unchanged (see our newsletter of January 10th).*

Comments on the FNPRM portion of the ACP Order will be due 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.  Reply comments will be due another 30 days thereafter.

USAC launched a new E-Rate Form 471 Download Tool last Thursday.  The new tool, providing detailed access to Form 471 data for FY 2016 forward, is available through USAC’s E-Rate Open Data website directly or through the E-Rate Tools page.  Within the Tools section of USAC’s E-rate website, the new tool is currently the first of the two Form 471 tools.

        USAC’s New Form 471 Download Tool 

The older Form 471 tool, which will be retired later this week, provided less data and had to be downloaded by state then searched or sorted for specific applications.  The new tool, with a powerful filtering system, provides direct access to the following types of Form 471 data:

  • Basic Form 471 data
  • Consultant information
  • Discount calculations
  • FRN status
  • FRN line items
  • Recipients of service
  • Connectivity data

Each dataset can be filtered, downloaded, or viewed using the icons in the upper right-hand corner of each data window as shown in the following example:

Form 471 download dataset

The functional explanation of the three icons is as follows:
orm 471 download tool functional explanation of the three iconsorm 471 download tool functional three icons

To learn how to use the tool in some common use-cases, watch USAC’s tool walkthrough video.  In addition, if you are new to USAC’s Open Data platform, USAC has beginner-level videos that introduce and explain how to get started using the Open Data platform.

Upcoming Dates:

January 27 Next FCC Open Meeting at which the commission will consider a Report and Order that would amend the definition of library in the Commission’s rules to clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible for support through the E‑Rate Program.
January 28 Form 486 deadline for FY 2021 covering funding committed in Wave 25.  More generally, the Form 486 deadline is 120 days from the FCDL date or from the service start date (typically July 1st), whichever is later.  Upcoming Form 486 deadlines are:
Wave 26            02/04/2022
Wave 27            02/11/2022
Wave 28            02/18/2022
January 28 Invoice filing deadline for FY 2019 and FY 2020 non-recurring services.
February 17     FCC comments due on the Future of the Universal Service Fund Notice of Inquiry (FCC 21-127) (see our newsletter of December 20th).  Reply comments are due March 17th.  Note: These are new comment deadlines based on the recent FCC extension order (DA 22-6).
February 25 Extended invoice filing deadline for FY 2020 recurring services.
February 22 Last possible date to file a Form 470 in time to meet the 28-day posting requirement for the close of the Form 471 application window for FY 2022.
March 22 FY 2022 Form 471 Application Filing Window closes at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

USAC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Newsletter of January 18, 2022, largely a repeat of previous versions, does include the following new FAQ dealing with potentially eligible ECF services received prior to July 1, 2021:

Our service provider delivered the eligible equipment earlier than we requested. What should we do if the equipment for which we are seeking reimbursement was delivered before July 1, 2021?

If an applicant receives the equipment and/or services prior to July 1, 2021 (e.g., the start of the relevant funding period for the first and second application filing windows), they may seek a waiver of the FCC’s rules to be able to seek reimbursement for that equipment and/or services. Applicants seeking a waiver should include a brief description of the issue including information about order and delivery timing. For more information on submitting a waiver request with the FCC, please review the Emergency Connectivity Fund website.

USAC’s E-Rate News Brief of January 20, 2022, covers the following topics concerning the FY 2022 Form 471 application window:

  • In all but a few limited circumstances, FY 2022 applicants must file a Form 470 to begin the competitive bidding process.
  • February 22nd is the last possible day to file a Form 470 in time to meet the 28-day posting requirement in time to select bidders, sign contracts, and certify a Form 471 by the close of the Form 471 application window on March 22nd. 
  • Most E-rate eligible services require contracts that must be uploaded into EPC before an associated funding request can be created in a Form 471 application.
  • Applicants who have not accessed EPC in the last six months should understand that USAC has added an additional step to the login process.  Applicants must now log in to the One Portal system using a multi-factor authentication system.  Applicants whose passwords have not been used for at least 60 days will have to reset their existing passwords.

Thursday’s News Brief also discusses:

  • Deadline relief for E-rate participants in Mississippi and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Ida.
  • USAC’s new Form 471 Download Tool (discussed above).

 

*  One minor change, indicated in an addition to footnote 310 dealing with the eventual need to transition ECF bulk subscriptions to ACP bulk subscriptions, suggests that continued household eligibility would be subject to an approved ACP verification process.